Considering working overseas? How to get your finances ship-shape before you move
If you’ve accepted a job offer from abroad, jumping on the next available flight to your new life might seem tempting. According to the Office for National Statistics, over 128,000 Brits migrated from the UK in the year ending September 2016, with work-related reasons cited as the main driving force. Follow these practical steps to make sure you get the best from this opportunity, and a softer landing should you ever need to return.
Tidy up your tax
Before leaving the UK, check out the HMRC website for advice. You’ll need to complete form P85 and include your P45 or a self assessment tax return. You might be due a tax refund if you are leaving part way through the tax year. You’ll also find information about optional National Insurance contributions, or what to do if you will be splitting your time between UK and another country. You’ll still need to pay tax on any UK-generated income, for example if you’re renting out your property (more information here).
Compare the cost of living
Your new salary offer might look generous on paper, but it pays to do your research before signing on the dotted line. Enlist the help of expats already living there, via online discussion forums (like this one) or Facebook community pages, to gather accurate costs of rentals in your desired area, school fees, transport, and utilities. Cost of living comparison tools, such as this one, can be insightful. Use this information to support negotiations with your new employer. Bear in mind that health care and schooling won’t necessarily be free. Check what your employer will cover (if any) and budget accordingly. The cost of mobilising yourself and your family can outweigh the financial benefits of working overseas if you’re only there a short time. The first few months often pass by in a blur of paying out various deposits.
Pensions and savings
Bear in mind that your overseas employer might not offer staff pension schemes, so you’ll need to take stock of any existing savings or pension policies, and determine how best to keep them working well for you. Some savings plans rely on you being a UK resident for eligibility. Even if you don’t make any immediate changes, ensure you have access to online statements, and get a current valuation. If you need to move your funds, this will speed up the process.
A rainy day fund
Like most expats, your eligibility to stay in your new country will be dependent on your employment visa, for yourself and any dependants. If your job should end for any reason, there is unlikely to be any UK employment law to fall back on, and you may find yourself with a limited time before you need to leave, find a new job, or even find new accommodation if this was part of your remuneration package. You’ll need to have a buffer fund available to you to tide you over between jobs or for flights home.